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June 21, 2019 5:25 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are expecting our first child and we recently learned of Canada's birthright citizenship policy. We're wondering if this is something we should be thinking about or pursuing, and are seeking any information, factual or anecdotal, about the process, downsides, stigmas, etc.

My wife and I are expecting our first child in a few months. Our housing situation has recently changed, and she jokingly suggested that we move to Canada for a few months so our child can be a citizen. Then we started to wonder whether we should actually be thinking of this seriously.

I know that birth tourism is stigmatized, and I can understand that perspective. I'm just wondering whether in these uncertain times, if we have the ability to give our child citizenship in an additional country, we should take it.

Other info:
-We're in New York state, 5-7 hours from the Canadian border. It would be tricky, but possible, to rent an apartment in Quebec or Ontario for the month surrounding the birth.
-My wife and I are interested in moving to Canada ourselves. I know that our child having citizenship would not help that process at all, I only mention it to say that we would love to give back to the country, if possible, not just to take.

Our primary concerns now are:
1) Timing - my wife would need to take maternity leave with enough time to make it across the border without too much stress. (I work remotely so would be more flexible here).
2) Medical providers - we've found a practice and doctors that we really like here, and this would mean starting over and finding providers we trust in a new country where people may not like what we're doing.
3) Unknowns - there are lot of unknown unknowns here for us.

What else are we missing here? Is this a terrible idea? What are other legal, social, and medical downsides, considerations, recommendations, etc?
posted by taltalim to Law & Government (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One unknown unknown is whether it's legal for you to work while you're living in Canada. The fact that you work "remotely" (with the US? with some other country?) doesn't answer the question. I don't have the answer but I've seen the issue raised here on MetaFilter.
posted by JimN2TAW at 5:30 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]

You may have trouble entering the country very pregnant. Also, presumably you would have to pay for prenatal care, the birth, and perinatal care.

But honestly, I'm just not seeing a huge plus here. I mean what do you think this will get your kid? The only thing it buys them is the right to move to Canada later without any hassle. If they decide to move to Canada eventually it probably wouldn't be that hard any way. Pretty much every benefit offered by the government of Canada is offered based on residency*, not citizenship. So absent moving to Canada you don't get much.

* The exception being intervention if you have trouble abroad (i.e. if you're arrested in another country...or maybe evacuated due to a hurricane). But those things would only serve the baby outside the U.S. (i.e. if baby is also a U.S. citizen, the Canadian government won't intervene regarding anything that happens in the U.S.)
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:33 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

One unknown unknown is whether it's legal for you to work while you're living in Canada. The fact that you work "remotely" (with the US? with some other country?) doesn't answer the question.

The official Canadian government policy is that working remotely for a non-Canadian employer is not "work" for immigration purposes:
Examples of activities for which a person would not normally be remunerated or which would not compete directly with Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market and which would normally be part-time or incidental to the reason that the person is in Canada include, but are not limited to: ...
  • long distance (by telephone or Internet) work done by a temporary resident whose employer is outside Canada and who is remunerated from outside Canada;
Also, current Canadian government policy is that suspected "birth tourists" should not be subjected to any higher degree of scrutiny than any other other tourist:
[T]here is no provision in IRPA [the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act] to refuse a TRV [Temporary Resident Visa] solely on the basis of the intent of the applicant to give birth in Canada.

When it is known that an applicant is pregnant, assessment of the application should focus on the requirements applied to all applicants for a TRV. The fact of the pregnancy may be an element in the assessment but only in so far as it affects the assessment of the primary requirements for issuance of a TRV:
  • Do applicants have sufficient funds?
  • Will they leave Canada at the end of their period of authorized stay?
  • Are they admissible?
The application form for a TRV asks the applicant if they or any accompanying family members have any physical or mental disorders that will require social or health services during their stay in Canada. Answering "No" to this question should not normally be considered misrepresentation in the case of pregnant applicants, given the terminology used. Pregnancy may not normally be viewed as a "medical condition".
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:03 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]

Not sure what you mean by finding providers you "trust" for the birth. For residents (and visitors) of Canada, there is only one healthcare provider, and that is the provincial healthcare system. If you've found a GP or a pediatrician you like, that's great, but they may or may not be taking on patients.

Unless you establish residency (I think it's 6 months) in the province where you want to give birth, it will be very expensive to get healthcare.

You can work remotely no problem if you're on a tourist visa (not really a visa; it's an agreement with the American government). However, your tourist status expires right before you qualify to be a resident, and qualifying to be a resident means you also can enter the provincial health system.

I'm assuming that to have a child in Canada without being a resident and part of a provincial health plan would cost $10K-$20K.
posted by JamesBay at 7:07 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

If you are serious about wanting to move to Canada, why not apply for permanent residency? You'd have to do this anyway, even if your child is a citizen already. This is the equivalent of an American green card, but unlike in the U.S., eligibility is based on a points system rather than a lottery. If you qualify, your application will be approved. You can check whether you're eligible right now using an online tool. Processing times are not that bad.

All immigration considerations aside, based on the timeframe that you describe in your question, you will not be covered by the Canadian medicare system. Giving birth can be expensive; consider this for example. Would your U.S. health insurance cover a birth outside the country?
posted by heatherlogan at 7:08 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]

This seems like a really burdensome project to take on just before the birth of a child. Use that time to get your home, health care, child care, and support system sorted out where you live.

You'll need to get some sort of documentation for baby to be able to enter the US. This may take longer to obtain than you think.

If you move to Canada permanently, it shouldn't be too difficult to to get a permanent resident card for your child. This can lead to citizenship.

One annoying thing about US citizenship for people living abroad is that you still have to file (although usually not pay) taxes in the US. It's possible, but difficult, to drop your US citizenship if you have citizenship in another country.

I get that health care is expensive in the US, but whatever coverage you have may not cover giving birth in Canada. This is the kind of thing travel insurance policies exclude from coverage.
posted by thenormshow at 7:08 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]

I mean, I would do it. The ability to live outside the US has been the greatest single thing my spouse has ever given me.

People keep saying things about how you can just immigrate to Canada later, and it will be really easy for your kid to do that if they want to as well. Umm, no? That assumes all kinds of things, like your child being born without limiting birth events and your child achieving a college degree. It also assumes climate change will not trigger an influx of migrants to Canada so massive that Canada severely restricts immigration on the future.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:28 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]

Sounds like more work than reward to me.
posted by terrapin at 7:37 AM on June 21

There are a limited number of health care providers that are willing to take on non-insured clients (non-insured in this context means the provincial health insurance that you are not eligible for). They almost exclusively are for the use of refugees/people waiting for status they applied for months prior/low income people caught in beaucratic paperwork. The doctors.midwives would most likely find a middle class birth tourism couple not a priority, as you have the easy alternative to going back to NY to give birth.

The official policy of the Royal Society of Obstetricians is to ONLY provide emergency services (ie show up at hospital in late stages of active labour) and no preventative care to non-residents. In addition, at least in Ontario, it is difficult to find pregnancy care providers - especially in later pregnancy, again those they specialize are looking out for vulnerable groups. It is almost certain you would be unable to chose a doctor and would simply have whatever doctor is on call. Personally, I had a horrific labour and delivery resulting in the death of my child under an obstetrician I had never met before (this was Ontario). I advise anyone to avoid being assigned an on-call ob-gyn.

If something goes wrong for your wife it would be very, very expensive (anything health-related for the baby once born is covered). The cost of her care is still subsidized however, and the current sources are allocated on the current local population's needs. So from a moral perspective you are suggesting you plan to have access to the resources paid for by others, possibly usurping someone who lives local forcing them to travel to another hospital/doctor/midwife in order to accommodate you while their ob-gyn delivers your baby instead of theirs.

It sounds very disempowering to your wife to take away her health care choices for a roll of the dice at Canadian citizenship (I fully expect a lot of birth tourism citizenships to be revoked). The Vavilov case - revoking citizenship from boys born in Canada to non-Canadians, is still before the Supreme Court.
posted by saucysault at 7:54 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]

I don't quite see what you would really be gaining from this other than the possibility of your child paying local tuition rates at a Canadian university in 18 years. If you were from the developing world, this would make much more sense.

You may also be underestimating what having a newborn is like. Having a baby without any kind of social support network around you is, I imagine, quite taxing. When we had ours a few years ago it was a lifesaver to have friends who could come by occasionally just to watch the baby for an hour or two so we could go for a walk or grab a coffee and just be normal adults in some way. To say nothing of the heroes who made us meals! If you are alone in Toronto or wherever, do not underestimate the social isolation, particularly on your wife.

Lastly, as a Canadian, I find it a little offensive that some people view citizenship in our country as just some cheap commodity that it would be, like, fun to have. We are a real country with real values, not some future contingency plan for those who don't want to actually commit to contributing to Canada right now. (And because I'm Canadian I feel bad for saying that and I'm sorry for the harshness!)
posted by fso at 8:00 AM on June 21 [22 favorites]

The Vavilov case isn't relevant because OP's child will not be an "offspring of diplomatic or consular officials or other representatives of a foreign government." Citizenship is always denied to children of consulate officials because of the different laws/privileges applied to people in those roles. Personally, I doubt birthright citizenship will be challenged in Canada anytime soon. But you never know, I didn't think Ford would get elected either.

You will likely not get even a temporary resident visa fast enough, honestly. But you can cross the border as a tourist and you shouldn't have problems. You'll only be able to see a doctor once you're admitted to a hospital, then pay the medical fees (you won't be covered by any insurance because insurance only covers residents!).

People on tourist visas actually do this all the time, both on purpose and accidentally, and the Canadian government doesn't seem to care that much... if you're coming via land from the US. There are a LOT of people who live on border towns and cross back and forth every day. There are towns that are half in Canada, half in the US. It's not really a hard border, and there are lots of US/Canada dual citizens for exactly this reason (myself included). If you're flying in you'll be subjected to more scrutiny, and people coming from non-US countries/people of colour face some possibility of rejection (because Canada's racist too, and border guards have no real accountability). Honestly I doubt you'll have any problems besides the lack of access to a doctor before delivery.
posted by 100kb at 8:16 AM on June 21

As someone who has had unexpected birth results, make sure that you factor in neo-natal intensive care as a possibility if you take this venture on. My first pregnancy was textbook, with no issues. Delivery went tits-up; my daughter probably received $150,000-$200,000 worth of care if not more in her short 4-day life.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:34 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]

Yeah I was coming in with the NICU scenario. You could wind up with a hospital bill that tops the price of a nice house.
posted by spitbull at 8:39 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

Based on your questions, you don’t understand Canadian healthcare. You don’t just show up and pay. You have to be in the system to get care. You get in the system by being a legal resident eg. on a visa, not a visitor. Residency is typically 3 months before you can apply for a healthcare card. This ain’t America where you wave your dollar bills and get service.

Now, as recently pregnant Canadian living in America, I considered traveling back to my homeland to give birth (and to avoid saddling my kid with American citizenship and tax reporting obligations) and even I decided it was not worth the hassle for all the good reasons described here and above. And I have the legal right to be there!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:14 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

Do either of you have a parent or grandparent born in some other country that might offer alternative citizenship? That might be a better route for you and your kid.

Canada's not as hung up on birthright citizenship as the U.S. is, either. As others have said, you'll be causing yourselves a lot of inconvenience and expense for a relatively small advantage.
posted by zadcat at 9:27 AM on June 21

A lot of really great answers here - thank you for all the feedback.

Our thoughts and motivations echo what DarlingBri has said. We've been looking into leaving the US for a little while now and both wish that we had options for alternative citizenship (we don't). I'll be asking a future question about places to move.

On the surface, this sounded like it might be more straightforward than it is, so thank you for tempering that. We were not very familiar with the Canadian healthcare system, and don't have previous experience with childbirth, so your answers are much appreciated. We'll take the time to look into permanent residency instead of trying for this quick and difficult option.

fso, I apologize if my question made it sound like we viewed Canadian citizenship as a cheap, fun commodity. My wife and I don't view it that way, and I tried to make the question echo that.
posted by taltalim at 10:43 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]

One slightly easier suggestion: if either you or your wife have considered returning to school, Canadian universities are often cheaper than US universities or colleges (even factoring in foreign student fees). If you're able to work remotely and earn US dollars while your wife completes a program you'll both be perfectly legitimate residents, and this would give you the chance to live here for 3 or 4 years, to have kids if you'd like to, and to see how you feel about the actuality of Canada rather than the idea of us :)
posted by jrochest at 9:07 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]

Foreign tuition fees are 3~4X than for Canadian citizens and permanent residents. That said, compared to the US, this might still be cheap. A student visa also allows you to work for 3 years at the end of a formal degree or diploma program, and that typically then leads to PR.
posted by JamesBay at 5:53 PM on June 23

Graduate students (But not undergraduates, I believe) can apply to become permanent residents while still in their graduate programs -- I think they can apply after 2 years. So you don't even have to wait until you work. You could start grad school in Canada and then become a permanent resident by the time you graduate. Lots of people become permanent residents because it means that you can pay the local tuition rates for the remainder of your program.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:21 PM on June 24

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